Thursday, May 7, 2020

Beyond the Box - One Year Ago Today

 If you haven't read it yet, please read it.  Don't wait until you have a concern to begin exploring all the options and resources provided by your school district.

Beyond the Box by Paula Lazor, Producer of Education Innovations at WERA 96.7 FM (@lazorcte54)

Mascot Books - 
or of course,

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Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Projects with Real Products for Real Needs

Head bands for face shields
We have an informal policy of never saying no to a student or teacher idea, unless of course safety is involved.  But sometimes we establish priorities, procedures, and policies that help all of our team members, collaborators and daily visits pursue goals that are consistent with our mission to promote awareness and access to technical career information for our future workforce in an increasingly global, 5G/IoT, data-driven workforce.

Last year we invested in two mid-priced 3D printers ($700-$800) and shared an informal policy of designing and printing things that have real utility.  We reflect on that broadly and only rarely have to steer someone from creating something cute toward something that is instead interesting and functional.
Packaged for NoVA Labs

Our network of career and technical education (CTE) and STEM teachers and other education experts nearly always seem to have similar orientations, and we realize we are teaching the students who will soon be able to enroll in their courses in middle school and high school as they choose among many other tempting elective course options (e.g., Art, Photography, Chorus, Band, Orchestra).  Like those teachers, we also embrace the idea that lab projects can and should result in real products, even better if those products met a real need in the community.

Accordingly, we are active in those local, state and national agencies and organizations that represent those educators and stay in touch regularly.  Many like Rob Dudek, Topher Paterno, Cassidy Nolan, Danielle Meyer, Matt Cupples, and Kris Martini provided ideas and support and were on the

Monday, April 27, 2020

Internship cancelled?

We are very proud of our Thinkabit Lab internship programs and we are working hard to provide remote work experiences that are similar to what we'd otherwise do on site.

We liked this by Sonia Begum on today from

Students if you had your internship cancelled this is what you should be doing:

1. Look into volunteer remote opportunities. There's plenty on LinkedIn under the volunteer column. Volunteering can be an excellent way to learn and use it as experience on your resume.

2. Start a side business. Are you good at social media, data analysis or maybe designing a website? Start offering it as a low cost service. My first LinkedIn consults were for $4.95 for a 15min call with me.

3. Work on a summer project. There are a billion projects you can find on the internet. Find one and do it!

4. DO SOMETHING. Anything is better than nothing. You can't change what happened but you can make the best of it.


Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Thinkabit's first Graduate Assistant now in the spotlight


DAC Student Spotlight: Andreea Sistrunk

When Andreea Sistrunk started taking classes at Virginia Tech in the fall of 2014 she had left her job as a full time teacher in Northern Virginia to devote more time to her two young daughters, ages three and seven.

Andreea Sistrunk, DAC
Ph.D. student in Computer Science
“It was becoming more difficult for me to hold a full time job and be a good mother so I chose to take a break from work,” Sistrunk said. “I used a sort of ‘mom’s night out’ to enroll in a graduate course at Virginia Tech because I really missed learning new things.”

Sistrunk was drawn to computer science. She held a bachelor of science degree in engineering with a minor in childhood education from University Polytechnica in Bucharest, Romania, and was a licensed teacher for K-12 and Advanced Placement classes in mathematics, computer science, and technology.

From that course, she eventually applied to the Computer Science program and earned a master’s degree with a concentration in data analytics in Fall 2019. Currently, Sistrunk is in the Ph.D. program and a student at the Discovery Analytics Center, where her advisor is Naren Ramakrishnan.

Sistrunk has gone back to work full time as a research scientist in a laboratory outside of the

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

A message from President Sands

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Boolean Girls - Full STEM Ahead - Episode 3 - Intro to Python - Turtle

Register Now!

Episode 3: Introduction to Python - Turtle

March 18, 3-4 PM Eastern Time
Ages: 10-18
In this episode we will introduce Python Turtle, a Python library used to introduce kids to Python. It is a fun and easy way to  introducing core python concepts.  With the Python Turtle library, you can draw and create various types of shapes and images.
If you’re a beginner to Python, then this tutorial will help you as you take your first steps into the world of programming with the help of the Python Turtle library!
What you need to participate:
A Boolean Box or a Raspberry Pi or any Windows or Mac computer with python installed.  See guidance for installing Python 3 on Mac or Windows below.
Recommended: A second device with internet access for tuning it to this episode.  Can be a Windows or Mac computer or a tablet.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Boolean Girls Full STEM Ahead Episode 2 - Ghosts and Wizard

Episode 2: Ghosts and Wizard

March 16, 3-4 PM Eastern Time
Ages: 8-13
You are a wizard and you need to catch all the ghosts. Problem is, as soon as you catch one ghost, seconds later the ghost returns.
Learn how to:
– Use Broadcast and Receive
– Use the mouse to maneuver your sprite
– Use random numbers
- Make the game your own with a different theme
- Add scoring

Replay the Episode

Free Online Resources When Stuck Inside

Curated by our high school intern Kathryn, these resources can keep you interested and learning when you're stuck inside.

Submit your suggestions to

Academic EarthVARIETY - Links to thousands of free university-level lectures and course materials from over 20 highly regarded universities.
AlisonVARIETY - Free online courses in all subjects.  There is a course called all about the coronavirus.
Boolean Girls  PROGRAMMING -  Register for our free, live instructor-led online series. Kids learn to Code, Build, Invent, and Animate, and each episode is age-appropriately tailored for ages 8 to 18.
Codecademy PROGRAMMING - Learn in‐​demand skills like coding in different programming languages, web development, design, and data science. Free access to basic lessons, with the option to pay for more advanced courses.
CourseraVARIETY - provides a wide range of courses created by various colleges and universities, including many that are free.
DuolingoLANGUAGES - If you or your child are interested in learning a new language, Duolingo offers free online learning tools in 36 languages.
EdxVARIETY - Access to free online courses delivered by a consortium of leading colleges and universities. Learn college‐​level content in computer science, engineering, and robotics, among others. 
Khan AcademyVARIETY - free YouTube instructional videos in a wide range of content areas, including all levels of mathematics, English language arts, science, history, computer science and programming, and SAT preparation. Content is aligned with state curriculum standards, and parents can view and track their children’s progress.  
Local LibrariesVARIETY - explore the many other digital resources your local library likely offers. Many public libraries provide free access to e‑books, streaming films and music, digital magazines, and even language learning resources, such as Mango.
Lyn​da​.com  – VARIETY - available for free through many public libraries, Lyn​da​.com has an array of online learning resources in subject areas ranging from photography to business to web development. Log into your local library for access details.
Marginal Revolution University (MRU) - ECONOMICS – Economics isn’t always taught at the K‑12 level, but the dynamic, self‐​paced introductory economics courses offered for free through MRU are likely to pique your older child’s interest.
Mystery ScienceSCIENCE - Mystery Science has free memberships for up to one year. Video lessons are complemented by hands‐​on experiments and downloadable activities.
No Red InkWRITING - free, online writing and grammar resource helps students of all ages to practice and refine their writing skills. Parents can sign up as a teacher (you can use your home as a school), create a learner profile for your child, and then allow a child to log in to the student account and get practicing.
Open CultureVARIETY - Access 1,500 free, online audio and video courses from recognized universities, and access more than 1,000 free audio books.
Prodigy MathMATH - Free and used by many schools for online math support.  This uses a video game‐​style interface to engage learners. Users create characters and conquer challenges using math aligned with their skill level and grade-level competencies. The paid version offers more math and allows parents and teachers to customize additional features. 
Smithsonian InstitutionVARIETY - An example of what many museums are offering, the Smithsonian Institution’s open access Learning Lab offers free, online resources and activities for learners.  
TED‐​EdVARIETY - a free collection of high‐​quality videos on a variety of topics for learners of all ages, including supplemental materials, discussion questions, and opportunities to probe deeper. Register as an educator and you can help to customize your student’s learning experience, or let your kid explore independently.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Boolean Girls Full STEM Ahead - Episode 1 Pong

The live session broadcast from the Virginia Tech Thinkabit Lab was recorded for playback from

Episode 1: Pong

March 11, 3-4 PM Eastern Time
Ages: 8-13
In this episode, we will work together to create a game in Scratch.  We will start by covering the basics, so even a beginner can complete this project.
Build the game Pong and learn how to:
  • Log in to scratch, create code and save your work;
  • Use events to make a Sprite move;
  • Use variables to keep score; and
  • Use conditionals to know when to make something happen.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Drew Elementary Makerspace featured on WERA's Education Innovations

Our collaborators at Drew Elementary, Rachel Landry and Joel Gildea talk about elementary makerspaces with WERA's  Paula Lazor.

Education Innovations, Saturdays 2:30-3pm on

See more at or

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